It all started one day when DOD (Dear Old Dad) wandered up to his favourite haunt, the shed, to find Dan sitting in one of DOD’s F500 race cars. DOD asked Dan, Do you want to have a go kid to which Dan replied, Sure. DOD’s racing career ended, Dan’s began. (F500 is a minature sprint car, powered by 500cc motorcycle engines, running on dirt tracks.)
Dan was in his mid teens, at high school. He had not done any racing before, nor driven a road car. He started in an overweight, underpowered F500, the Kindykar. We started Dan this way so he could learn to drive fast without relying on power to win races. Off to Gatton we go, steady for a couple of meetings, but wasn’t long before Dan got the hang of it, & started beating others in much better machinery. (Dan has kept this habit of punching above his weight.) After about a year, Dan was showing such good promise that we bought a decent F500 powered by a Suzuki RG500 engine. Dan immediately started running at the pointy end of the field, winning a few as well.
Dan ran this car for a few years, winning all Brisbane club championships while in this car. First Qld. Title he contested (at Mackay in 2003) he ran third.
This car while having good power was a bit heavy, so we made a lighter car using the same motor. More Bris. club championships. Next Qld. Title at Bundaberg 2004, qualified reasonable, crashed out of final. Following year, Qld. Title at Townsville, another third. This was Dans last F500 run.
Decision time. Dan had grown into a tall, solid lad by now, & was a bit heavy to go much further in F500. We had an opportunity to buy a cheap Sprint Car. This looked an ideal class with their realistic specifications, so Dans size ceased to be a handicap. We gingerly decided to give it a go, a decision we have never regretted. (DODs definition of a sprint car:- a tractor on steroids. Driver sits astride the drive line, oversize motor with way too much power, big fat rear wheels, skinny front wheels, & a sun canopy.)
We bought the Tognotti. It was literally a wreck, it had been crashed hard into the wall at it’s last meeting. (It was old, already a classic. We were never able to trace its lineage.) As with all bargains, it was in worse condition than we expected. No matter, we overhauled it & went racing. Why did we start with a cheap car? We didnt want to overextend ourselves only to find we couldnt make the grade. This was a golden age, the economy was booming, we all felt like millionaires, Sprint Car parts were relatively cheap. A horse trader (Allan Woods, another Sprint Car driver,) had started Qld. Speedway Spares about this time, we were able to haunt his premises for new & used bits to overhaul this car.
First practice. DOD told Dan to take it easy, start slow & gradually work up to a speed he felt comfortable with. Dan completely ignored DOD. Dan immediately gives it plenty of welly, DOD shits. A couple of laps, Dan comes in, I thought you said these things were quick, the formulas quicker. Took a while to convince Dan that he wasn’t slouching around. His times weren’t quick by sprint car standards, but much faster than he’d gone in anything before. Very promising, Dan wasn’t intimidated by these cars, which demand a lot of respect.
First season. Started rear of field for a few meetings, till officials felt Dan was race ready. This season went well, with some surprisingly good results at times. Midway through season, Dan has his first big crash. Dan is unfazed. Come on, were racing again in two weeks, lets get it fixed. Voted rookie of the year. There were a few others started this year as well, we’ll take it. Finished the season with car crashed on top of wall. No matter, a new car was on the way. We seemed to be fitting in quite nicely, & hadn’t broken the bank.
Next three seasons. We ran a razor chassis made by local wiz Brad Hilder. First season we built a more modern engine, the next two seasons we used a larger motor. Best result in this time, 4th. Dan started specializing in qualifing (time trials) with a best of third quickest (twice), quite a few top fives, most others still up there. His heats were ok, could have been better, but he wasn’t tearing the car up. Feature races always good, usually finishing in the 6th to 10th range. These good times weren’t to last. First half 08/09 season, Dan had a horrifying crash. We asked Dan if he wanted to keep racing, not a moments thought, Yes. It didn’t happen straight away, but midway through this season Dans qualifing began to slip away, & continued slippling alarmingly, irrespective of how we adjusted the car. His heats remained unchanged. This made qualifying for the feature much harder. Surprisingly, this extra pressure seemed to bring out the best in him. He was now buried deep in the B main. Dan would consistently pass enough cars to qualify at the rear of the A main, where he would again consistently pass cars for a decent finish. Fortunately, halfway through the 09/10 season, there is reason to believe his qualifing is coming back. At the end of last season, we replaced the razor chassis. We wanted another one, but Brad Hilder was unable to make one in the time we needed it. Dan is currently running a triple xxx chassis.
Definition of a budget racer:- Dan Murray. When Dan started racing, he practiced on his computer with a Sprint Car game. You start with a budget car, the better you do, the more money you win, the more money you spend to better the car. Amazing how closely this game reflects our situation. Even our transporter is budget. While most other teams seem to outdo each-other with the biggest & best, we make do with the Tonka Truck. DODs maxim:- Be stuffed if well have a transporter worth more than the race car.
Why do we enjoy our racing? The people around us. Our crew, MOM & DOD, Dan, Danielle, Darren (loves collecting speedway memorabilia), another Darren (Artie) Choat, a confirmed bachelor. A happier lot you could not find. All the other crews. On the track, all hardened competitors, no quarter given. When you’re in trouble, these same people are the first to ask Need a hand, mate, or Need any bits? The Clubs mainstay couple, Mark & Lyn, everybody’s personal friend.